- Update on Negotiations
- Why We Need to Negotiate A New Process for Reaching a Single Flight Attendant Agreement at the New American Airlines
Update on Negotiations
With this week's announcement of the Department of Justice settlement of the anti-trust lawsuit, we anticipate events will move rather quickly. The settlement remains subject to approval in US Bankruptcy Court and the company anticipates completing the merger in December 2013.
AFA continues to take steps to protect your contract and your bargaining rights. We believe the best outcome for 24,000 Flight Attendants at the New American Airlines is for AFA and APFA to come together to reach a consensual agreement on bargaining and representation. To that end, AFA US Airways MEC President Roger Holmin sent a letter to APFA President Laura Gladding again reiterating the need for AFA and APFA to meet. Given the announcement of a settlement in the Department of Justice lawsuit, there is no good reason for the parties not to meet. The parties are in discussions about meeting the week of November 25.
Roger also sent a letter to Doug Parker requesting that US Airways management meet to negotiate an MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) with AFA. During the negotiations for our collective bargaining agreement earlier this year, US Airways management committed to engage in four-party MOU discussions. Given status of talks between AFA and APFA, we are requesting the company meet directly with AFA to negotiate provisions of a MOU/Transition Agreement.
In the coming weeks we will continue to provide information about what is at stake for Flight Attendants. That includes details on the following information as to why the bargaining process contained in the APFA/US Airways Conditional Labor Agreement does not work for Flight Attendants at US Airways, and undercuts an opportunity for all 24,000 Flight Attendants. We will also provide detailed comparisons of the underlying AFA and APFA agreements to demonstrate why it is so important we use a process that includes the best of both contracts.
Why We Need to Negotiate A New Process for Reaching a Single Flight Attendant Agreement at the New American Airlines
The APFA/US Airways CLA Explained
The CLA negotiated between APFA and US Airways management states “Base Agreement: To the extent not modified by this Conditional Labor Agreement, the APFA/AA November 1 1998 – November 30, 2004 Collective Bargaining Agreement together with the 2003 restructuring Participation and any side letters now in effect ‘CBA’ shall remain in effect.” The CLA includes a process for negotiating a single agreement starting with sixty days of negotiations with APFA followed by binding arbitration if the parties cannot reach an agreement.
What that means in plain English is under the process negotiated by APFA negotiations for a combined Flight Attendant agreement would use the APFA Agreement as modified by the CLA as the starting point. As in any negotiations, APFA would have to convince US Airways management, or in this case an arbitrator, to make changes to the base agreement. In contrast, AFA is proposing that both the AFA and APFA Agreements be considered the base agreements, allowing us to truly negotiate the best of both agreements.
Best of Both?
In recent communications APFA claims to want to negotiate the best of both agreements. That’s understandable because that clearly is what needs to be done for the benefit of Flight Attendants at the New American Airlines. The problem is that is not what APFA negotiated. While APFA would be free in their short sixty day window of negotiations to propose to incorporate language from the US Airways Agreement, one should not expect too much for several reasons:
- US Airways management sees this as an opportunity to get rid of many of the industry-leading provisions of the AFA/US Airways Agreement. Management chose to use the APFA agreement as the base agreement for a reason. Although the APFA agreement contains some good provisions, overall the US Airways Agreement costs more for management and has far more detailed contract language. While it is understandable US Airways management would prefer a result based on the CLA only, we cannot understand why any Flight Attendant union would favor such a result.
- The short sixty day time frame will not allow for detailed negotiations. Experience tells us that one would not be able to incorporate many changes to the concessionary APFA base agreement within a sixty day window for negotiations dates. Most of the time would be spent dealing with the economic framework, allowing little time to go through forty sections of the agreement. The US Airways agreement alone is 450 pages and 120,000 words. If we allow this contract language to be extinguished it is never coming back. While AFA favors an expedited process, it must include timelines and standards to produce an industry-leading agreement. Otherwise, management at the New American Airlines will get a windfall.
- If the parties cannot reach an agreement or the Flight Attendants reject the agreement, under the process in the CLA outstanding issues would go to binding arbitration. This is not a process guaranteed to produce major changes or an industry leading contract. Since APFA and management have already agreed that the concessionary APFA agreement as modified constitutes the base agreement, APFA would have the difficult task of convincing the arbitrator on every change.
We Need an Arms Length Relationship From US Airways Management and Clear Contract Language
Maybe after dealing with American Airlines management for years, US Airways management may seem like a breath of fresh air. We, however, have years of experience of dealing with the US Airways management team that profited in the wake of the US Airways/America West merger by holding down labor costs. Maybe they are better than American Airlines management. But management has made clear that their priorities and interests are not rooted in sharing benefits with Flight Attendants.
For that reason, it is imperative that our union have an arm’s length relationship with management. This is a business relationship. That means we need to rely on detailed contract language rather than personal friendships or verbal commitments. To be fair, negotiating during bankruptcy is difficult because of time pressures and the lack of union leverage. Language negotiated at the last minute can lack the specificity one would otherwise like. That being said, the language of the CLA does not meet minimum standards that Flight Attendants at the New American deserve.
A document purporting to govern the careers of 24,000 flight attendants and involving hundreds of millions of dollars in labor costs should not be subject to misinterpretation. Otherwise one is left to trust management which we know from experience is never a good idea. In comparison, the pilots at the New American Airlines negotiated a nineteen page MOU which nails down key details. That is one more example of why AFA and APFA must meet to negotiate a non-bankruptcy-driven process for reaching a single agreement.
Inclusion versus Exclusion
AFA believes that Flight Attendants at the New American Airlines have so much more in common than differences. We believe that by truly joining together we can achieve an industry-leading agreement which recognizes our collective sacrifices in making this merger possible. Make no mistake about it: Management is the one who gains by trying to divide Flight Attendants. Long after this merger is finalized, we are going to be flying partners and fellow union members.
US Airways management negotiated a process with APFA for reaching a single agreement which shut out the input and experiences of 8000 US Airways Flight Attendants. A process of exclusion is not good for US Airways or American Airlines Flight Attendants. It not only squanders an opportunity to gain an industry-leading contract, but wipes out solid contract language which governs our day-to-day working lives now and for years to come. That’s why AFA is proposing a merger of our two unions and a jointly-negotiated process for reaching a single agreement. This is not only possible, it is an opportunity we can’t afford to have slip through our fingers. We need a unified frontline at the new American Airlines.
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